Massaman curry

One of our favorite restaurants in Minneapolis is Amazing Thailand. So when a friend of ours posted a recipe on Facebook that he said was just like a curry there, I definitely wanted to try it. I had just made a veggie curry that I would classify as OK. But that got me thinking how easy it is to make a coconut milk-curry paste sauce that becomes dinner really quickly, and how I think I should do that more often.

This recipe not only turned out very similar to the restaurant version, but was far better than the curry I made before. I think it’s the creaminess from the peanut butter and the added flavor from the fish sauce that make all the difference.

Isn’t this the most amazing bottle design?

I made this with chicken, but I think next time I might try it with tofu. Really you could make it with any meat, and if you wanted a vegan version of the sauce just substitute vegan fish sauce. The other thing I would change is to either cut the potato cubes smaller or pre-cook them a little. It seemed like it took forever for them to cook through. I also added some broccoli for a little color.

So here is my version of the recipe.

Massaman curry a la Amazing Thailand

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red curry paste
3/4-inch thick cube of ginger, minced
1 pound or so boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed (or substitute tofu cubes)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons tamarind paste (I used tamarind chutney)
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 cups golden potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
juice from one lime
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups steamed broccoli florets (optional)

Heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Stir in the curry paste and ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and stir until it’s cooked through, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the brown sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, peanut butter, potatoes, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the lime juice and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve over brown rice with the broccoli, if you like.

Sauteed corn and poblanos

I actually made three dishes from Real Simple’s Mexican Dinner Party Menu, and they were all really good. But I think my favorite was actually this humble corn and poblano pepper salad. I followed the recipe, except that I had a 16-ounce package of frozen corn instead of two 10-ounce packages.

I had half a tub of cream cheese in the fridge, and I thought it might taste good to add a dab of that to the corn salad. I was right! But it certainly doesn’t need anything extra. If you saute the corn, red onions, and peppers long enough to get them a little caramelized, they are really flavorful.

Love those colors!

The full menu. 

Poblanos can be a little bitter, so I think the salad would also be really good with red bell peppers (or really any color pepper) instead. It’s perfect for summer, so I can see us making it as a side with something on the grill. We bought a smoker, so there’s another foodie challenge for us to take on.

Lamb kabobs

When we moved to California, one of the things we had to leave behind for space was our barbecue grill. We still haven’t replaced it, but we do have a nifty cast-iron grill pan. So we used it to make some lamb and veggie kabobs with a little bit of Moroccan seasoning.

Considering our faux-grill setup I thought they turned out pretty well. The only thing I would do differently (because of cooking these indoors) would be to leave out the garlic, or brush it off before I put the kabobs on. It started to burn up and smoke, a lot, which was not a good thing in our tiny kitchen.

I took the seasoning combination from a Clean recipe, and I thought it worked perfectly. We served the kabobs over brown rice for a pretty healthy dinner.

Lamb kabobs

1 to 1 1/2 pounds lamb, cut into cubes
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch rounds

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 garlic gloves, minced (optional)
olive oil to drizzle on top

To make the kabobs I separated the meat and veggies, putting 3-4 chunks of meat on each wooden skewer. If you don’t want the skewers to burn, soak them in water beforehand. Then I alternated pepper, zucchini and onion chunks for the rest of the skewers.

For the seasoning, combine all the spices in a small bowl, add in the garlic, and the sprinkle it all over the meat kabobs. If you have any extra left you can sprinkle it over the veggies, too. Then drizzle a little olive oil over all the kabobs.

Heat the grill pan over medium-high heat, and then arrange the kabobs on top. Grill them, turning every 2 minutes or so, until there are grill marks on each side and the meat is done to your liking. We like ours around medium, which took about 10 minutes.

Stuffed turkey tenderloins

I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a turkey tenderloin, but I was looking for a turkey breast in the store and this was all I could find. I didn’t have a plan for cooking the tenderloins, but I wanted something sort of comforting, so I made up this Thanksgiving-ish recipe and it turned out pretty well.

Stuffed turkey tenderloins

2 turkey tenderloins
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 an onion, diced
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little more for browning)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. First you want to butterfly your tenderloins so there’s room for the stuffing. I just made a long cut down the middle until I got a piece that would lay out flat. But what I probably should have done was to pound it out a little thinner so it would be easier to roll. Next time. (If you do that you might need to reduce the baking time.)

Next, prepare your stuffing. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium and saute the onions and apples until the onions are just starting to brown. Add in the walnuts and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Let the stuffing cool just a little before you start working with it. You’ll also want to set aside about 1/2 a cup to make a little sauce.

Scoop some stuffing onto one of the tenderloins and spread it out a little. Then just roll it up so that all the stuffing stays inside. Secure with some kitchen string. Repeat with the second tenderloin.

Before you bake them, you want to sear the tenderloins on the outside so they’re nice and brown. Get a pan with a little more olive oil up to high heat and drop in the tenderloins. Sear them on all sides so they get some nice brown color but aren’t cooked all the way through.

Then bake these for about 30 minutes or until the juices run clear.

Meanwhile, heat up the chicken broth until it starts to bubble and add in the 1/2 cup of leftover stuffing. Let it reduce just a little.

When the tenderloins are done, slice them up and pour the sauce over the top.

Chicken Paprikash

Apart from “When Harry Met Sally” references, I didn’t actually know what Chicken Paprikash was. Not surprisingly it’s chicken with lots of paprika — and it’s delicious!

When I was looking for recipes that included chicken and tomatoes (and eventually settled on the tikka masala), I also found some paprikash recipes that piqued my interest. So I tried it this week.

It’s a really hearty, comforting dish that’s perfect to make in the winter. The recipe I found called for dumplings, but I decided I preferred egg noodles. I also wanted to use chicken breasts rather than a whole chicken, but you could really go either way.

Chicken Paprikash
adapted from Saveur

1/4 cup olive oil
2 large (or 4 small) boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour, plus 2 tablespoons
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
4 small sweet peppers
4 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup sour cream
3 cups egg noodles

Heat a big pot of water to boil the egg noodles. Just follow the package directions for cooking time.

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then dredge them in the 1/2 cup of flour. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook until brown on both sides, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Now add the paprika, tomatoes, onions, and peppers to the pan, scraping up all the brown bits, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Cut the chicken into 2-inch chunks, and add it back to the pan with the chicken broth. Once that’s all mixed together and bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, stir together the sour cream and 2 tablespoons of flour. Whisk in 3/4 cup of broth from the pot. Add that mixture back into the pan and stir to combine. Turn off the heat. Serve over egg noodles.

Repeat! Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash! But I would be pleased to partake of your pecan piiiiiiieee.

Salmon with caper-dill sauce

This is definitely one of those go-to recipes when you want to eat something healthy, but don’t have a lot of time to cook. I think with salmon the less you mess with it the better it is. But a little sauce on the side makes it extra special.

Salmon with caper-dill sauce
Serves 4. My fillet was a little small so I made 3.

1 pound (or a little more) salmon, cut into 4 fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:
3 ounces plain yogurt
1 tablespoon light mayo
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While that’s heating up, prepare the sauce by mixing all the ingredients in a small bowl, and put it in the fridge to cool.

You can add more mayo, less yogurt, for a richer sauce.

Heat a big skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and add them, skin-side up, to the pan.

I am growing to love our cast iron pans…

Cook for 3 minutes, then carefully flip the fillets over and cook for another 2 minutes. What you’re aiming for is a nice brown crust on the outside.

Now you’re going to finish the salmon in the oven. It should take anywhere from 3-8 minutes, depending on how thick the pieces are. I gave mine 5 minutes, and that was plenty, almost too much.

I like to serve salmon with a blend of half brown rice and half wild rice, and my favorite roasted zucchini and onions.

Comfort food classics

Even though we’re not exactly bundling up against freezing temperatures here, we still feel the seasons change and the days get darker before Mike gets home from work. So by dinnertime we’re ready to cozy up with something comforting for dinner.

Magical noodle-y casserole awaits.

I thought I’d give you a couple of recipes that we’ve been enjoying this fall. The first is a beef stew that slow cooks on the stovetop without too much effort. (Maybe you could even do it in the crock pot.) I thought about adding potatoes to it, but ended up just sticking with carrots. We opted for toasted garlic bread slices on the side.

Beef Stew
adapted from Paula Deen

2 pounds stew beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 carrots, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat the oil in a big soup pot over medium-high heat. Drop in the meat and let it brown on all sides. Reduce heat to medium and add all the ingredients except for the carrots and celery. Cover the pot and simmer for an hour and a half.

Remove the bay leaf and garlic cloves and add the carrots and celery. Simmer for another 30 minutes. If you feel like you want the meat a little more tender and falling apart you can raise the heat and let it bubble a little higher.

Before you serve, take out 2 cups of liquid. In a separate bowl mix up 1/4 cup of water with the cornstarch and add it to the liquid. Then return it to the pot and mix it up. When the stew is thick and bubbly it’s ready.

**And by the way, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I learned the best way to make garlic bread from Rachael Ray. Just toast bread slices, slice a garlic clove in half and rub it all over the bread, then spread on a little butter. It’s so much better than the pre-packaged stuff!

The next recipe is my version of the tuna casserole I grew up with. We always made it with biscuits on top, but I decided I like it better with noodles instead. I remember I had a roommate in college who thought it was hilarious that I put peas in the casserole, but I think that’s fairly normal. Right?

Tuna noodle casserole

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons AP flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
10 3/4-ounce can cream of celery soup
2 cups milk (whole milk recommended)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 ounces tuna, drained
2 cups peas
3 cups dry egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste
About 1/2 cup bread crumbs to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a big soup pot over medium and melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and garlic powder. Then add the milk and soup and keep whisking. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

*Edited to add: I’m normally an advocate of buying 1 or 2 % milk to save on calories, but when I made this once with whole milk it was so much better that I will make it that way from now on. It makes the perfect creamy sauce. 

Stir in the cheese and turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the tuna, noodles, and peas.

Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Bake, uncovered, for 15 more minutes.

Chicken pot pie

The last time I made pot pies was in early 2006. The reason I remember it so distinctly is because I had just moved back to Des Moines from Colorado, and I didn’t have a job yet. So I was making all kinds of comfort foods. I picked Ina Garten’s recipe for veggie pot pies even though it was far more labor intensive than the recipes I normally made. It took me something like 2 1/2 hours to make, and the next day I came down with bronchitis and laryngitis and was sick for two weeks.

Soooo, fast forward to now. I wanted to make a nice comforting pot pie using chicken left over from a baked chicken.

But this time I wanted it to be a little easier, so I decided to use frozen puff pastry instead of making my own pastry topper. I did find another recipe from Ina, which was a great place to start. I added a bunch of veggies I had around the house and took out the little onions, because I don’t love their flavor.

I’d say this recipe was a total home run. It’s warm and bubbly and comforting, and the puff pastry comes out so flaky and delicious with basically no work at all. You could easily split this up into four bowls with their own crusts on top. Or you can change the veggies based on what you have in the kitchen. One thing I also took from the original veggie recipe was to add saffron to the mix. It’s just a little bit of something different to make this even more special.

Chicken pot pie
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Meat from half a baked chicken, cubed (recipe here)
-you could also use 2 large chicken breasts, baked with salt and pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 a fall squash, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
4 small golden potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 yam, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 10-ounce package/2 cups frozen peas
pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 sheets frozen puff pastry

Before you do anything else, take out the puff pastry sheets to thaw. By the time you get finished prepping everything else, they should be soft enough to work with.

Then start chopping all your veggies. Heat up a big stock pot over medium and start melting the butter. Then you can throw in your onions and celery and cook them until they are translucent. This is a good time to start preheating the oven to 375 degrees.

While those are cooking, heat up the chicken stock (either in the microwave or on the stovetop) and dissolve the bouillon cube in it. Add the flour to the onions and celery and stir it up so you get a nice paste.

Now you can add the hot chicken stock, salt, pepper, and saffron. Then add the rest of the veggies and stir in the cream.

Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. This helps the potatoes and squash get cooked all the way through. Then add the cubed chicken and peas and dump it all into a 9×13 baking dish.

Now you can gently place the puff pastry sheets on top of the casserole. I needed 1 1/3 sheets to cover the whole thing. You can also get creative here and do some kind of lattice top or leaf decorations or something.

Ugly presentation. But it tasted good.

Then just bake the whole thing for 1 hour. Let it cool a bit before you dig in.

Easy chicken salad

When I was in Kansas, my mom made a yummy smoked chicken salad, and it made me realize that I had never made chicken salad myself. This is what I came up with, and I think it came out pretty well.

Chicken salad

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, or equivalent (a little over 1 pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 cup light mayo
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1 cup red seedless grapes, cut in half
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the chicken breasts on a nonstick baking sheet and sprinkle on the herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Bake until the chicken juices run clear, about 45 minutes.

Let the chicken cool, and then slice it into 1/2-inch chunks.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until it’s all combined. That’s it!

I love chicken salad on a croissant, but it’s also great in a pita pocket, lettuce wrap, or just plain.

Sloppy Joes

I think I am on a foods-I-enjoyed-as-a-kid kick. But who cares? I’m just glad to be cooking regularly again.

Mike and I actually ate vegan sloppy Joes from a boxed mix quite a bit the last few years, so I was curious how difficult it would be to recreate the recipe with real meat.

I turned to a comfort food expert for this one – the Pioneer Woman. Her recipe looked great, but it was definitely written for a family much bigger than ours. So I fiddled around with the measurements (adding more of some stuff I like) and came up with this:

Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 small green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup (could go up to 3/4 cup, if you like)
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinches of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 whole wheat buns

Instead of using butter, I decided to cook the meat together with the onions, bell pepper, and garlic. There’s plenty of fat that comes off of the meat, and if you get too much, you can drain it off once it’s all cooked.

This made more than enough for two dinners, but I appreciated the leftovers.

Then I mixed in all the remaining ingredients (except the buns, of course), and let the mixture simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Right away it picked up that Manwich hue, and I knew the recipe was legit.

Toast the buns if you want them to hold up a little bit better. Wish I would have realized that as a kid.

Mike thought it might be nice to use something like ground turkey next time just to make it a little lighter. I’ve tried making Joes with mashed tofu before, too, and it works pretty well.